Thursday, June 5, 2008

Sonny's Tree

Last summer we traveled up the California coast. The summer’s a tough time to travel – kids are out of school and the campgrounds are full of amateurs. Except for our perfect camping scam in Ventura – which is or isn’t a story for another time, depending on whether or not I decide to divulge my secrets – we couldn’t find anywhere to camp.

The crowds drove us into the desert:

It was hot in the desert.

We had to rig up an awning using a tarp and a tripod.

The heat drove us into the mountains.
Ahhhh. The Sierras. We were up at 10,000 feet, so it was cool, and there were tons of spots to tuck in, out of sight of the main road, under giant trees, for free:

We camped near the Trail of 100 Giants.

Oh, they’re giant.

Oh, they’re big.
We ended up in a little town called Camp Nelson, high in the Sierras. We found a wifi signal at Pierpoint Springs Resort – which is part café, part bar, part store, and part P.O.

I got busy online, at a table in the café, and things got even better when Mistah brought me a beer from the bar – you can’t do that in a public library.

When I was done, I walked into a packed bar, full of the over-70 crowd, throwing back bourbon. It was Tuesday, Family Night, and all of Camp Nelson society was at the Pierpoint for dinner . . . at 5 p.m. I joined Bill at the bar, and within the hour, I had an invitation from Carol Ann, on my left, and Bill had an invitation from Sonny, on his right, to spend the night.

So we did the only reasonable thing. We took them both up on their offers.

We went to Carol Ann’s house that night and slept in a bed and took showers. Heaven.

The next day we met Sonny at his house.

That’s Sonny and his old logging saw. Sonny’s 88 and sharp as a tack. His wife had other plans, so the 3 of us went downtown – such as it was – for lunch. Sonny had a glass of buttermilk at home before we left, and a chocolate milkshake for lunch.

Then we followed Sonny up a winding road to his family’s camp.

The camp has a locked gate to keep (other) people’s cars out, but the public is invited to walk through, because on Sonny’s property is the 5th largest tree on the planet.

It’s called the Stagg Tree, named, oddly enough, after a football coach named Amos Alonzo Stagg. Our 88 year old tour guide led us down the steep path to the tree. You can’t really get your mind around the size of that tree.

In photos it looks big, but the scale is off.

It’s just too much tree for one photo.

We finally left the mountains and overstayed our welcome stayed with our friends Matt and Patti in Moraga, California. Patti, her daughter, and Bill and I went to the Muir Woods National Monument for a stroll through the Redwoods one day. Redwoods are nice. They’re gorgeous. They’re majestic. But they’re no Sequoias.

In the bookstore we noticed a book called
Tree by James Balog.

And there, as the cover of the book, was our tree. The Stagg tree. Sonny’s tree.

See that little red thing in the middle?

That’s a man.
Finally, some scale.

Now THAT is one big-ass tree.


P. Orozco Cronin said...

Awesome tree, awesomely funny you did not overstay any welcome, silly rabbit. Otherwise, I would not be saying the following:
Come back this summer!!!!

Anonymous said...

"Patricia, you're hot and you know it's true....."

Thank you. But we're not going anywhere this summer, except our deck.

Where you, by the way, are welcome any time, if you ever find yourself on this coast.....

Anonymous said...

great story, great photos! I can't see the red speck, but I've seen the photo or the book or something, right? Does anything grow on that tree that we can sell?

Anonymous said...

You can't see him? Dang. I can. I think we can probably sell the bark. Or sell adspace on it.

Anonymous said...

OH, I totally see him now, I was looking at the bottom of the tree for some reason. What was I thinking? That gravity forces the peeps to stay on the ground? Pshaw!

Anonymous said...

Love it, Ellie. What a great trip (and post!). Love the idea of selling ad space on Sonny's tree too, although you'd need to choose something appropriate for the foot traffic-only crowd.

Anonymous said...

I can hook you up with a shitload of paper fan overstock ... at cost!

Anonymous said...

Hey, that just might work. It DOES get hot up there.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for blogging! What a great desert and mountain adventure and beautiful photos. I must go meet Sonny's Tree in person. So the Sequioas are taking priority placement on the vaca list. --If I write much more it's an essay more than a "comment"...

But, I would have bought a fan--there is a cuteness factor to the sidewalk bench/store which I am a sucker for--


JS said...

I like you people. I don't know why, I just do. You're wierd. I mean that in only the most positive sense, to the extent I can. You're welcome to stay a spell with us, too. If you ever get back to Texas and we're still in it.

Anonymous said...

I can only assume that you like and invite everyone who commented thus far, ci? We're moving in.

Anonymous said...

So nice to hear from you, Jane Z! Another Texas. What a treat...

Unknown said...

Waaaah! I'm homesick! And I confess that I prefer redwoods to sequoias only because they're "my" trees from "my" neck of the woods (wow, that was kind of pun, only it's not, is it?... uh oh, too much wine already) but will happily read about any road trip told by such an adventuresome gal!

Anonymous said...

Well, weirdly (wierdly?) we started this blog at the tail end of 7-1/2 years on the road. But, man, I got stories.......

JS said...

I came back to say I can spell well. Sometimes, I just choose not to.

Anonymous said...

And that, Mr. AKA, is your prerogative.